Today is 580 days sober. Not a hugely remarkable day. Nothing I would get a chip or even applause for at a meeting. But still a nice round number. As the numbers grow bigger somehow they seem less significant. But really is any 24 hour period less important in recovery? I remember when the thought of going 24 hours without a drink seems unbearable. Now sober life seems like the right one, even if it still doesn’t quite feel normal. Maybe it never will feel normal. Maybe normal isn’t a feeling I’m meant to have.
I went to a meeting last night and a gentleman approached me after. He asked me if I had heard him chair one time and if I had sat on the left side of the room near the front. I said yes and shook his hand. I told him that that meeting was my first ever meeting and his chair had changed my life. After that first meeting I dove in with both feet into chasing my recovery. I remember something in his share had stuck out to me. He said that this program had given him the opportunity to be a son to his parents, an uncle and now a great-uncle. That really hit me because especially at that point (I was 18 days sober) I didn’t think I would ever have a family of my own and I often used that as an excuse to drink. I would tell myself I wasn’t hurting anyone because I didn’t have a husband or children of my own. But that man’s share showed me that I did have a family that deserved to see me sober. Now, 562 days after that first meeting I can say I am a daughter to my parents, a sister to my brother, and an aunt to two beautiful little girls. I’m also a partner to my boyfriend, a friend to many, a sponsee and a sponsor to other woman. By getting sober I went from a burden to those who loved me to now I am genuinely a help to so many. I still don’t know if God’s plan for me is to be a wife or a mother but I know that the person I am today is ready for those roles. I can’t control where life takes me but I can prepare myself to accept any outcome regardless if it is my plan or not.
Change is not easy even when it’s everything I’ve ever wanted. When I was out there drinking all I ever wanted was to love and be loved. I didn’t think it was possible for me to ever be a loving, supportive, stable partner to anyone. And last year God blessed me with the opportunity to be all of those things. And everyday I have worked hard to be that partner. Now things are changing. My boyfriend and I are moving in together. It is so exciting and wonderful and scary and out of my control. I have never made such a big change in sobriety. And with anything in life there are pros and cons to the move.
We are moving to a new city
Pros: The recovery community in the new city is so great. There are more meetings, more people, and more chances to help newcomers. We will be able to walk to coffee shops, restaurants, and meetings. I will be living closer to my sponsor.
Cons: I will be further away from my parents, the city where I got sober, and my job. This whole little life I’ve built for myself within a 10 mile radius of my apartment will be changing.
2. I will be living with a boy
Pros: I’ll get to wake up and go to sleep next to the man I love more than anything else in the world. We are getting to join our lives in a tangible way. We are taking a big step to combine our lives together.
Cons: I will have to compromise, listen and continue to put his needs before my own. Ahh that sounds hard---- but something I wholeheartedly want to do.
3. My nights alone
Pros: When I’m not with my boyfriend I miss him so much my heart hurts. When I have a bad day he will be there to give me a hug and tell me everything is going to be okay. No more cooking for 1!
Cons: In sobriety I’ve finally become comfortable being alone. I now cherish the time I get to do the things I love solo. I will have to continue to carve out time for the things I love to do.
Recovery has given me a life I never dreamed possible and I have to accept that I deserve these things. I still struggle to believe that I am a person who deserves to be happy and live in peace. I’m so excited for this new adventure! More updates to come!
Recently, I visited Japantown in San Francisco and I was so excited by all the cool stationery products I brought home with me. I bought notepads, washi tapes, stickers, calligraphy paint, all kinds of fun stuff. When I started researching what to do with all these new supplies I came across “trackers”. These picture recorders track everything from a budget to weight loss goals. I watched youtube videos about people who used them in their bullet journals and their success with them. So, I decided to start tracking some habits of my own. I started with a mood tracker, a meeting tracker, an April workouts tracker and a meetings tracker.
The first one I did is a mood tracker. This one has been particularly important for me this month while I taper of my antidepressants (if you want to know more about my struggles with prescription drugs click here). I wanted to be able to carefully track how I was doing each day. I set up a key with colors representing everything from “cried” to “frustrated”. Each line on the day representing when those feeling stood out to me. For so long I’ve wanted my feelings and emotions to just disappear and stop weigh down my life, but now I’m looking at how I can handle & cope with them. This tracker also helps to keep me from overgeneralizing and just declaring, “Today was awful!” Well no, if I look at the tracker I can see things like a productive morning leads me to a content evening most days. Or usually after I cry I find gratitude. These patterns can help show me that when I’m having a low point that it will in fact get better. When emotions take me over it can be difficult for me to think logically but this tracker helps show me in black and white (& every color of the rainbow) that my mood will in fact change again.
2. My April Workout Tracker
Just like with my mood tracker I wanted to keep a close eye on my workouts this month while I’m lowering my antidepressants. We all know that exercise boosts moods and done consistently can help combat depression naturally. I’ve increased my workouts in an attempt to combat the inevitable boomerang depression that comes from getting off antidepressants after 3 years. For me being able to tick off a box post workout doubles that feeling for me. Then I get to look back and actually see the amount of times I’ve worked out. So when my brain tries to tell me I’m lazy I can look at the tracker and say, “No, I’ve worked out 12 times this month and for me that’s pretty darn good.” My brain can tend to recall things in a less than flattering light so it's nice to have the reality written down for me to read.
3. Meeting tracker
I used to go to 5-8 meetings a week when I first got sober then I would have weeks where I would only make it to 1 meeting. I found it difficult to find the right balance. I know there is no magic number of meetings for me to go to. Sometimes I feel burned out like I’ve been going to too many meetings and not taking enough time for self care. Other times I think I don’t go to enough meetings and I need to put my sobriety first. This tracker is attempting to help me find the balance. If I can look at my tracker and think, “Ok, I’ve gone to 13 meetings in 26 days. That’s 50%.” I see that as a pretty good balance and that feels good.
These trackers are all just about trying to improve myself worth, self acceptance, and self-care. I would love to expand my trackers to all kinds of thing and the possibilities are endless. But like anything I’ve done in the past 18 months of recovery I am only making a beginning at this whole trackers thing. These types of things do not come naturally to me and are almost the exact opposite of what my brain would tell me to do, but if they help even a little I’m willing to keep trying at it. And for today I’m enjoying it.
Is it even possible to go to a bridal shower sober?
Tips for surviving a bridal shower
Is it even possible to go to bridal shower sober?
There are many things I’ve done sober, but a bridal shower was not one of them. I didn’t even think it was possible. Recently, I was blessed to attend the bridal shower of a relative of mine. I remember the last bridal shower I attended was at a winery. Not surprisingly, I was completely distracted by all the free wine and can’t tell you much about the event. I don’t think I caused a scene or any harm, but I really can’t tell you much else about it either. But the bridal shower I went to last week I went into with a different mindset, a I’ve been sober 18 months how can I make the best of this situation mindset. So, here are a few tips I implemented.
Get there early
This was important for a few reasons. With less people there I was able to talk with the bride for a few minutes and head off any awkward sobriety questions before all the other guest arrived. Luckily for me there were none. It also gave me a chance to quickly fill my drink with sparkling water, orange juice and raspberries from the mimosa bar before anyone noticed I had not put any champagne in my glass.
2. Blend in
Obviously, I am a huge advocator for living a sober lifestyle but there is a time and place for everything. A bridal shower is not the time nor the place to express my views on drinking. I realized once I had filled my wine glass (the only glasses available) with my non alcoholic drink I looked like all the other women there. I didn’t have a big scarlet letter S for Sobriety attached to my dress like I was sure I would feel like I did. And not surprisingly not a single person asked what I was drinking or how much I was drinking. I’ve learned this from going to other events but no one cares what or if I drink. As long as I don’t interfere with their drinking or their ability to drink freely.
3. Play the games
The question I kept thinking was,”Oh god, what am I going to do with my hands if I’m not drinking?” Luckily, bridal showers tend to have lots of options for games, advice cards, date card ideas etc to keep your hands busy. Do them! Actually taking the time to play these little games was not something that ever crossed my mind when I was drinking it would’ve cut into my precious drinking time. How could I write on a card if I wasn’t willing to put my wine glass down?
4. Make jokes
Everyone likes to laugh so whenever possibly make a joke to lighten the mood with the other guests. If they’ve had a few drinks they are bound to think you are hilariously, quick witted--- little do they know that you are just sober and clear headed.
5. Enjoy yourself
Be mindful of what a special, loving moment you are living in. Try to really listen when people are speaking to you. Take pictures. Listen to the advice cards. Eat the delicious food. All of it is so enjoyable when you let yourself relax and be present.
Leaving my Commitment
In my recovery program commitment has been huge. I need somewhere that I’m expected to show up every week. It helps keep me accountable. A year ago I committed to running a Friday night candlelight meeting. And for 52 weeks I made sure those doors were opened, the coffee was made and the chairs were set up. Last night I left that meeting, handed over my key and thanked everyone for letting me be of service.
When I walked into that meeting about 15 months ago I walked in alone, unsure of what to expect. Last night I left with more than I could ever imagined. As a direct result of that specific meeting I have a sober roommate (with an adorable cat that I absolutely love). I have dear friends who have helped me through so much. I have a newcomer I’m helping to understand the road to recovery. I found another woman who has trudged the road to recovery for 7 years and she has since showed me the way to stay sober. I also happened to find the love of my life, the man I hope to marry one day. To say this meeting has given me everything might sound like an exaggeration, but it literally has.
Without this meeting none of these amazing people wouldn't have come into my life right when I needed them -and my sobriety would look very different today. I walked out of that meeting last night knowing that I had fulfilled my commitment, but I also left with a completely different life than I had ever thought possible for myself.
Commitment was never my strong suit while I was drinking. I would drunkenly agree to do something, and then if it didn’t fit into my plan I would flake. I felt bad but I was so deeply self absorbed I couldn’t let those feeling enter into the forefront of my mind. I was living only for myself and that was a really sad, dark place for me.
This meeting gave me the chance to prove that I was trustworthy and reliable. I knew that being of service was not meant to be for me. I am of service to help other people, but the gifts I have been given because of that are astronomical. So, thank you for letting me be of service.
But Holly, I am an Alcoholic
Response to the article, “HI, MY NAME IS HOLLY. AND I'M NOT AN ALCOHOLIC*. (*BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH THING.)”
Hi, I’m Kate and I’m an alcoholic. Yes, an actual alcoholic. I am the 10% HipSobriety’s Holly so casually mentions saying, “90% of problem drinkers are not addicted. Let me repeat 9 out of 10 people who struggle with addiction are NOT clinically addicted.” (link here) But me? I am that 1 out of 10 who is labeled as clinically addicted (my medical chart said “sever drug and alcohol addiction” to be exact), which made me realize this article she wrote is not about me. I agree and disagree with much of what Holly wrote so I will hit on a few points. And just so you know I love Holly’s work. I attended a workshop of her’s and listen to her Home podcast, so I know she has done a lot of amazing things for the recovery community.
Holly writes, “It [the word alcoholic] asserts that it’s normal to consume an addictive substance with ease, and abnormal not to be able to. Hi, backwards thinking.” I get what she is saying but in the literature I follow it says, “The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it to the gates of insanity or death.” To me it’s not about the actual substance I consumed. I could have destroyed myself with cake, coke, or isolation. The problem is my alcoholic brain wants me sick or dead. My problem is centered in my mind. My mind was probably warped before I ever took my first drink and consuming alcohol continued to warp my brain until I could no longer live without it. If I had never taken a drink I would’ve still been filled with maladaptive coping mechanisms that would have caused me to suffer immense amounts of pain.
“It scares the shit out of people. It creates fear. … Our idea of an alcoholic is someone who attends AA for the rest of their lives, assumes a lifetime label, lives with a ‘paler set of colors’ and is stuck in perpetual craving,” wrote Holly. I identify with this wholeheartedly. When I hit my rock bottom I looked at my choices, A) Continue down this path of drugs and alcohol or B) Never drink again. Both those choices seemed so unbearable, scary, full of fear and because of that I thought killing myself was the only option. How sad, how desperate, how much fear do you think I had to be in to think, “Yea, killing myself is a better option that never drinking again.” I had never lived without alcohol and in my mind how would I ever celebrate anything ever again? How would I know when the day was done and I could finally relax? So, I wholeheartedly agree that there is fear in the label alcoholic. But if I had not surrendered to that fact that I was truly an alcoholic I would be dead. I would have missed out on some of the greatest joys and triumphs of my life. Yes, it took a lot to overcome my fear of the word “alcoholic” but fuck what if I hadn’t? Compared to death going to meetings seems like the logical choice.
Hip Sobriety also shares, “That instead of looking at how insane it is to consume the amounts of alcohol we do in this country on any level, we’ve instead systematically labeled anyone who can’t hang in that insanity as having a problem.” I mean I could hang. I could drink most men under the table. There weren’t many people I met who thought I couldn’t “hang”. But at what price? I completely agree with Holly in that it’s insanity the amount some people drink, but I also don’t really care how much others drink. When I was out at the bars I didn’t care how much other people drank. I cared about my own buzz. While yes, I would love to cure the world of it’s need for alcohol but I know I am only one person. All I can do is stay sober for today, help raise awareness of what alcohol does, and help anyone who asks. I appreciate Holly’s efforts to change the world but I’m not sure if doing away with the word “alcoholic” will solve that. I have to be the change I want to see in the world. I only have control over myself. And for me being labeled an “alcoholic” is the term I identify with so I will continue to use it.
Relapse is like this big, ugly reality that hangs over every alcoholics life, including mine. Whether it’s fear of my own relapse or dealing with the relapse of someone else in my life. A sobriety lapse is always there lurking. With practically every single person in my life being in recovery (myself, my boyfriend, my friends, my sponsor, and my immediate family) I am constantly in fear that one of those people will take another drink.
Recently, I had a friend of mine throw away 11 months sobriety to get high. In the beginning of recovery, this friend and I quickly bonded over our love of pretty nails, funny memes and our common need for lots of Alcoholics Anonymous. We talked daily for almost a year, went on girls trips together & I babysat her children. We went to several meetings a week together, usually getting coffee or dinner after to discuss. Last Thursday, I got the heartbreaking text that read, “Hey I’m high. Can you cover my meeting for me tonight?”
I wish I could say I was more surprised, but I had a sense her relapse was impending. In my recovery, I’ve developed somewhat of a 6th sense of who’s going to make it in their recovery. There’s no exact science to it, but I can just see it in their eyes. If you had been sitting in a meeting with this girl listening to her spew on & on about her serenity with her Higher Power and gratitude for her life, you would’ve never seen the relapse coming like I did. I feel like I am just acutely aware of these things. I don’t know if it was the way she was talking or if it was a “Methinks the Lady doth protest too much” kind of thing. I saw the shift when her actions no longer reflected the principles we had both worked so hard to achieve. Her kind of alcoholic behavior doesn’t always lead to a drink, but this case it did.
My friend and I were afforded all the same opportunities to get sober (the same rehab, the same meetings, great sponsorship, a supportive family, the same psychiatrists & therapists, the same friends, the same service committee). So, I began to question, “Why do I get amazing gift of sobriety and she doesn’t?” I pondered that and many other questions, “Was there something I could’ve done to help her?” “Was this my fault?” And the guilt filled my heart quickly.
I pondered these questions and while in a meeting it finally hit me: The only difference was that I had worked all of my 12 steps and she hadn’t. I had fully committed myself to this program of recovery and she hadn’t. She had the opportunity to finish her steps but took no action to completely them. While she balked at doing her 9th step (making amends to those we had harmed). I pushed through the uncomfortableness of the 9th steps and I get to live because of that. I get to live a life beyond my wildest dreams. I wish that I could say my success and her relapse were just a coincidence, but is it? In my opinion, it’s too coincidental to not believe that the program of AA works.
I pray for my friend to make it back to recovery, but I know this disease is a killer. This disease mangals lives and many follow it to insanity, the gates of hell, and death. I live in gratitude that I am finding freedom from this horrible, cunning, baffling disease.
Tips for a Fun & Sober St. Patrick’s Day
Holidays can be tough when it comes to maintaining sobriety, and St. Patrick’s Day may be one of the most challenging. A holiday that’s transformed into a drinking marathon can put anyone in recovery on edge. At Treatment Alternatives, we offer comprehensive support to help those in recovery. We address addiction, alcoholism, substance abuse, behavioral health issues, and more. Our treatment professionals have put together some tips for staying sober this St. Patrick’s Day while still feeling like a part of the party.
St. Patrick’s Day Sobriety
When most people think of St. Patrick’s Day, they think of drinking. The holiday celebrates St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. In the 17th century, the holiday began as a religious feast day. The holiday has evolved worldwide, and it often involves heavy drinking in the US. Staying sober on St. Patrick’s Day is possible. It just takes some planning and support. Here are some tips:
Sip on Soda. Just because you’re not drinking alcohol doesn’t mean you have to avoid having something to drink. Consider sipping on some soda, you’ll have a beverage in your hand the whole night. This can help you avoid awkward feelings during the evening, and most people won’t realize you’re drinking soda. This makes it easier to stay sober without people pressuring you into drinking.
Hangout with a Sober Group. If you’re early in recovery, or if you just don’t want the temptation, consider avoiding celebrations with alcohol altogether. There are plenty of people who are looking to celebrate without bringing alcohol into the mix. Contact your sponsor or support group to learn about any sober celebrations that may be taking place. Can’t find one? Put together your own sober St. Patrick’s Day celebration!
Be the Designated Driver. If you’re going out with a crowd that drinks, offer to be the designated driver. First, people will not pressure you to drink if they’re counting on you for a safe ride home. Second, knowing that others are counting on you will act as a reminder that your decisions affect others.
Be Honest. If you’re comfortable with being honest and upfront, it’s always the best way to go. Telling someone that you’re in recovery can always be difficult, but it can be the best thing that you do. Let your friends know ahead of time so they’re not in a situation where they feel the need to question your abstinence from drinking.
Start Something New. Starting a new celebration or tradition can be a great way to avoid the pitfalls of St. Patrick’s Day. Consider hosting a party with your support group or sober friends. You can make traditional Irish food, play music, or even take up Irish dancing! There are plenty of ways to enjoy a St. Patrick’s Day celebration without drinking!
It can be a challenge to stay sober on St. Patrick’s Day, or any holiday for that matter. Holidays seem to bubble up stresses and situations which can be triggering. But, you can celebrate without drugs or alcohol. It’s about building a supportive community and making sure you do everything you can to create a safe space. Remember, holidays aren’t all about drinking. In fact, sobriety offers clarity and insight which makes any celebration better!
The tone of my amends
While making an amends to a friend I wrote two completely different letters. The whole tone of my second letter changed, I went from looking for comfort to truly taking responsibility for my actions. This change in tone made all the difference during my amends. Making Amends to people can be one of the most difficult, stressful and humbling experiences of sobriety. Making amends is more than just saying sorry, it’s a promise that you will no longer continue that behavior. And the tone you chose to use for your amends can make all the difference in the world. Is your tone going to be one of force admission of fault or a genuine promise to never treat anyone like that again? .
Also, it has to be said not everyone wants you to make amends to them. I reached out to a friend and they said it was all good. Instead of throwing a fit and being like, “Don’t you know how important this is to my sobriety!” I made my amends by calming responding, “Thank you and if you ever change your mind let me know.” And then leaving them completely alone. I also messaged one friend and she just never responded to me. These things happen.
Below are two versions of the same amends. The first one was a rough draft and the second one was the actual amends that I made.
**Dear (Person who was one of my best friends),
I don’t even know where to start. I was such a mess. I had a severe problem with drugs and alcohol. I was extremely selfish and self centered. I had no respect for other people and their feelings. The way I acted towards you is completely unacceptable and I know that. I wish I could say that things got better after our friendship ended but things got progressively worse. Things got worse and worse until October 2016 when in a drug and alcohol fueled psychosis I tried to take my own life.
I had no tools for how to deal with life and I thought it would be easier for everyone if I just wasn’t around. Thankfully that scared me enough to finally ask for help. I went to rehab for two month last year and I have been clean and sober for fourteen months.
I know there is nothing I can do to change the past, but is there anything I can do to make things right? Is there anything I left out?***
Now there are probably a million things wrong with this amends letter, but I really thought it was alright. I was all set to read this letter to my friend until the day of I went to my homegroup meeting and shared that I was making amends. What I realized after listening to God speak through the people in that meeting, was that I was still being selfish and self centered with that first letter. I knew writing it and reading it back that I was trying to play the pity card. I wanted this old friend to feel so bad for me and I just had to mention, “Oh poor me I almost died.” Mentioning that was just a play to let her know just how bad I was so she would forgive me. It was all a manipulation to still try to avoid taking full responsibility for my actions. I am so glad I didn’t end up reading that letter. Instead, I prayed and then really wrote from the heart. This is what I ended up writing:
**(Friend’s name here),
I’ve been extremely nervous about making amends to you so I thought it would be best for me to write it down. In no way do I want to dredge up old feelings, but I want you to know I truly understand how deeply wrong I was in how I treated you. I am an alcoholic and a drug addict. I also know that this admission in no way whatsoever relieves me of responsibility for my actions. I used drugs and alcohol because they were the only things I knew could give me relief from the constant fear, shame and self loathing I felt. All I ever wanted was to be a friend, but I was a sick, frightened, desperate person who was incapable of that. I failed and I failed miserably. I hope that you’ll accept my heartfelt apology for my numerous failings. I know I can never undo these things, but please know that I have worked extremely hard to make sure I never mistreat people like that again. So, please tell me if there if there is anything I can do to make these things right or if there is any other discussion needed. Again, thank you for this opportunity.**
In my second letter I made sure not to excuse my behavior and I made sure not to brag about how much sober time I had. I had to admit how truly sad a person I was. Which was so humbling because for so long I tried to pretend to this friend that I was doing fine. Admitting this though was the only way to truly be free of this guilt and shame.
The amends went well and my friend forgave me. We still don’t talk but at least I know I have kept my side of the street clean. That amends was a huge burden was lifted from my soul. And for that I am extremely grateful.
Can I manage?
Before getting sober my life was unmanageable to say the least. So, when I got sober it all seemed so overwhelming. I didn’t even know where to start. One person told me, “Why don’t you start by picking up towels and hanging them up after you shower?” And I was like okay I can do that. It was literally little tiny baby steps like that. While I would love to be perfect at everything it’s just not possible. Now I strive to just be manageable and here are some ways I do that.
1. Praying first thing in the morning
It was suggested to me that I read pages 86-88 in the big book each morning, say the St. Francis Prayer, and meditate before I get out of bed. When I started doing those few simple things I was amazed at how much better my days were. It was an incredible change. The problem was that it's really hard for me to open my eyes first thing in the morning and most days I can't turn on the light to read. This lead to me skipping it…. A lot. I needed to figure something else out. That’s when I found a youtube video of a reading of just pages 86-88. Then I found a video of someone singing the St. Francis prayer and that also helped because the song would get stuck in my head. And of course there are a million meditations on youtube. I created a playlist to do all 3 parts in a row. And I have been way more successful. I highly recommend it. For me, it’s just a nice relaxing way to start my day now.
2. Coffee mugs that turn into science experiments
I used to be the queen of leaving old coffee mugs at my work for days, weeks on end. Then I would usually be so disgusted with them I would end up throwing them out. What I decided to do was buy paper to go coffee cups. Then if I leave a cup overnight the next day I can immediately throw it away. No more stacks and stacks of old stinky coffee mugs at my work.
3. Is the dishwasher clean?
I hate doing dishes! I’m sure this is no surprise, but I would let my dishes mound up for weeks and weeks. This was beyond disgusting. When my new roommate moved in I made it a goal to never leave dishes in the sink and always put them in the dishwasher. But with both of us doing this I never knew if the dishes were clean or dirty. I found at smiley face magnate and put it on the dishwasher. If the smiley face is upside down then the dishes are dirty and if the smiley face is up then the dishes are clean. This helps prevent so many problems, no more unloading a dirty dishwasher, no more loading dirty dishes into a clean dishwasher etc
4. Cleaning the crockpot!
Along these same lines I love to cook with the crockpot, but I hate cleaning the baked on gunk that gets stuck to the crock pot. Luckily, I discovered crockpot liners! Literally life changing. It takes me 10 seconds to clean out the crockpot. It’s amazing I can’t recommend it highly enough!
These are just a few ways I’ve tried to overcome the unmanageability in my life. Like I said I am far far from perfect, but I’m slowly heading in the right direction. It’s said to be progress not perfection.
Myself into sharp edges.
Sharp edges where a real person once stood
Shattered pieces that dug away at my soul
Cutting, chopping, snorting my existence away
Addiction shattered me
Me shattered me
Cuts so deep I couldn’t go on
Picking up pieces only to
Shatter each again
Smaller pieces becoming smaller
Resembling me little
My existence shattering still more
Now the shattering is done
Painstaking in putting each piece
One piece fixed, while another shatters still
The balance impossible
Fixing all those pieces, I can’t
I just can’t
The pieces slip through and fall crashing
Crashing, crying, screaming into still more
God help me
Put back together the pieces of a life
I shattered so recklessly.
Please I’m so broken still
Still so broken
Please Just Drop It
At one point in my alcoholism I was 40 pounds overweight. This was a general combination of not really liking myself and eating a 20 piece chicken nugget meal most nights after the bars. I literally would have my uber driver take me through the drive thru. This is so shameful but true. I didn’t like how I looked and it was just another reason for me to hate myself. I started training for a half marathon and with the running schedule I was keeping the pounds just started melting off. And the praise from people started pouring in. I loved when people told me how much better I looked. Secretly, in my very ill head I enjoyed when people told me I looked too skinny. I never starved myself, but I did have my butt in the gym almost everyday hangover and all. I would go to the gym to sweat out all the booze from the night before. As painful as it was I felt like that’s what I deserved. It was just another form of self-hatred manifesting itself in my life.
When I got sober I thought I was going to become a gym freak. The only problem was the detoxing and detox meds slowed me way down. I literally couldn’t run my muscle just seemed to turn to jell-o. Then I dove in with two feet into being of service and exercising became less & less important. It got to the point where I couldn’t even remember the last time I had been to the gym. I felt justified in skipping the gym because I was so busy focusing on my sobriety. And without all the empty calories of drinking and the late night trips to McDonald’s my weight stayed in what I considered to be a good place.
Then I hit a point in my sobriety where I wanted more. I wanted a deeper connection with my Higher Power and I just couldn’t figure out how. I thought I was doing everything possible. I started reading Drop the Rock (a recovery book about character defects) and it said something interesting. The book said, “Exercise is a wonderful way to do a moving meditation.” And I had a complete shift on my perspective of exercise. Working out went from a punishment to a way to get more connected with my HP.
Drop the Rock also states, “Probably the easiest method of letting go of fear and anger is through exercise.” I can hold onto a lot of anger for a long time. I feel the anger burning in my stomach and even some simple exercise routines help me tremendously. Exercise is one of the productive ways I can release this anger. It is much better than eating a pint of ice cream, punching a hole in the wall, or screaming into my pillow. Working out is one way for me to release anger in a way that actual leaves me feeling better about myself. That increase of self esteem is something I desperately needed in recovery.
Now my workouts no longer consist of hard core spin classes and doing a million squats. I use the time for inward reflect and as a path to connect with myself. This means more long walks, free flow yoga, and not pushing my body to the extreme punishment every time. I feel so much better about my attitude towards staying in shape. The gym is no longer a place I dread. To me it is now just another place to get connected and feel better about myself.
I forgot to
Somewhere along the way I forgot to grow up. I forgot to be a productive member of society and I forgot how to deal with other human beings. It’s like when I started drinking heavily at 16 I just stopped maturing as a person. The life lessons that people have throughout their teens & 20’s happened to me, but instead of learning & growing from those mistakes I stayed exactly the same. For me during that time, it was all about how much can I get from putting in the least amount of effort. I was always bouncing aimlessly around like a ping-pong ball. It wasn’t great.
Before I got sober my MO was to have a messy life, do the bare minimum to get through work, no money in my bank account & massive debt on my credit card, and less than stellar personal life. Not great. Really not great. In mind I always told myself I was fine. I had this delusional and completely absurd idea that some guy was going to ride in on a white horse and fix my entire life. The problem was I always tried to find this Prince Charming in a bar and if I did actually find anyone decent I was sure to scare them off with my insanity.
The worst part of my insanity was with my interactions with other people. People who cared about me and who I tried really hard to care about. But I had no idea how to form really connections with people if there wasn’t drugs or alcohol involved. All of these factors made me very difficult to be around. My friends just never knew what you were going to get. Some nights I would be so happy, some I would be crying for hours, some I would be trying to fight girls at the bar, and some I would disappear without warning with some random guy. All around just sucked.
I would love to sit here and say now that I’m sober I’m so mature and sophisticated. But, the reality is I’m not. It's going to take a lot longer than 1 year to make up for 15 years of being emotionally stunted by my alcoholism. Have a improved? Hell yea! But I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I still get angry and say stupid stuff. I still throw myself a pity party when the world doesn’t go according to my plan. I can still be a sucky person to be around sometimes. The point is at least I’m moving forward in the right direction. I’m just so grateful to have the opportunity to improve. I felt so stuck in my life before recovery and I’m so happy I get a second chance to make things right in this life. And I’m trying, I really am.
5:30 AM- Wake up: morning meditation, prayer
It is important to set your intention for the day and to thank God for giving you the last 24 hours clean and sober. It is so important to set an intention for the day. Beyond not drinking, what else do I want from that day? To be more productive? To help others? To practice patients?
This is one thing that has not changed. If anything it has gotten more ingrained and important in my morning routine. I now read pages 86-88, say the serenity prayer, 3rd step prayer, 7th step prayer, and 11th step prayer every day. I also do at least 10 minutes of guided meditation.
6:00 - Coffee
One thing I’ve learned about myself is that if I have too much caffeine it increases my anxiety which can make staying sober more difficult. I found that if I can limit myself to one cup of coffee I feel much better and my anxiety is lower for the rest of the day. I try to be mindful of that cup of coffee and really take the time to sit and enjoy it.
I will say most days I now drink one cup of coffee in bed and then 3 times a week I will take a second cup with me to enjoy at work. I’ve found in the past year my anxiety has gone way down and I am also better able to deal with my anxiety. I’ve learned to discern real problems from fictionalized problems I picture in my mind.
6:15 - Breakfast
Usually I try to have a smoothie with protein powder. I enjoy making a mix of whatever I happen to have in my kitchen. One of my favorite smoothies has an apple, banana, peanut butter, spinach and protein powder in it.
I haven’t had a smoothie in forever (my roommate moved with the blender). Most days I have a breakfast bar or a yogurt parfait. During this time I need to be getting ready to be out the door by 6:40 at the latest.
6:30- Get ready do: do my hair, make-up, get dressed
It’s not surprising that when I wake up sans hangover that I take more care in my appearance, but it's more than that. It is a way for me to show my self-worth. A lot of alcoholics suffer from low self-esteem, and a nice, clean appearance can really help me feel more self-respect.
By this time now I am ready (I still try to look as nice as possible) but something new is I found an AA meeting in the mornings that means a lot to me. Starting my day focused on what’s important improves the rest of my entire day. Or some days I just stay snuggled in bed and hey that's life.
7:15- Get to work early
I caused a lot of wreckage at my job when I was trapped in my disease. I have to practice keeping my side of the street clean and part of that is getting to work early so people slowly see that I am reliable. Beyond that it helps set the tone for my day if I have everything in place for myself.
Luckily, this year I moved to a new job so I got to start with a clean slate. I also don’t have to be at work until 8:45 but I still get there by at least 8:15 after my meeting. This still gives me plenty of time to get sorted for the day and by this time I have already accomplished a lot.
7:30- Call my sponsor
One of the greatest gifts that recovery has given me was the expansion of people I can turn to for help. And my sponsor is one of the people I trust to have my best interests at heart. I can talk with her about anything that’s going on in my life big or small and she always has great advice.
Now that I have worked the steps with my sponsor I don’t call her daily. I do text her whenever I need her. I see her at least once every few weeks, but that initial dependence is gone. I also have other women in the program (yes friends!) I can lean on and we talk daily.
Work seems to go so much smoother when I have a clear head. I am more engaged in what’s going on, better able to handle stress, and I have developed better skills in dealing with co-workers. All of which reinforce my sobriety and then make it easier to stay sober.
One thing I learned to do at work is to just shut up and stay out of the way. WhenI go to work I try not to socialize (or gossip like I used to). I just do the best job I can and keep my head down. I have lots of friends outside of work and seeking approval from my co-workers no longer exists. Thank God!
Again, I find it really important to nourish my mind and body. They say it takes up to 18 months for the mind to fully heal from the damage we alcoholics do to ourselves. This means it’s important to eat well and try to limit sweets. Limiting sweets has been incredibly difficult for me because my body is constantly craving sugar now that I’m in recovery.
I wish I could say my body is a temple but lately it hasn’t been. What I figured out at some point was I could pretty much eat whatever and not gain weight (I save a lot of calories from not drinking). Which led to me doing exactly that and eating whatever I wanted. With the new year I am trying to eat mindfully, but it is an area I could improve on.
The afternoon lulls still come, but I’ve found the more water I drink the better I feel. I also try to make it a habit to work all the way until the end of my day, to stay off my cell phone as much as possible and to do everything possible I can to prepare for the next day. Even in recovery I still only have so much energy so I need to remember not to push myself too far. I always try to remember that relapse can happen if you are HALT (hungry, angry, lonely tired).
My lack of energy has been a chronic issue for me in my recovery. I thought being sober I would be bubbling over with energy. Unfortunately, this is not the case at all. I now try to give myself a break and understand that my body is doing the best that it can. I’m trying not to feel guilty and just accept that I am where I am with my energy levels.
4:00-6:00- Self-care time
This self-care time can look like anything. Some days it’s naps (ok a lot of days it’s naps), exercising, reading, reaching out to others, playing with my cat, taking a hot shower, have a cup of tea etc.
Naps are my jam. I love to take the time in the afternoon to meditate, nap and just zone out on my phone. After working all day I really just need some time to decompress. I still love to play with my cat too.
6:00-7:30- AA Meeting
I’ve found in my area at least one meeting a night that I enjoy going to. The app “Meeting Guide” on my iPhone is useful because it can help me find a meeting no matter where I am or what time of day it is. I try to always speak at meetings when I am called on and I also try to listen--- to really listen to what other people are saying. God speaks through people and I have so much to learn.
If I go to a meeting in the morning I usually don’t hit a meeting at night. But some nights I have AA commitments, on Tuesdays I do a book study at my house and Wednesday night is date night. Also, I now take Mondays as my “me” days where I only do things by myseLf. I can’t even tell you how much I cherish those days. I never thought I would like spending time alone but i do I really do.
Dinner can often be the most difficult meal for me, because usually by this time I am tired. Sometimes I will reward myself with something special and yes, I reward myself with food sometimes. This can also be one of the most challenging times to stay sober so I often use dinner as a time to reflect on the day about what worked and what didn’t work.
Dinner time is a lot more fun now, sometimes I go out to eat, cook with my friends, my boyfriend cooks for me, I cook (attempt to), and we do Blue Apron. I also got a crockpot for Christmas so I am hoping that will help me do some more cooking. My goal is to cook at least one fancy meal a week.
This time can look different every night. I recommend finding a show or series you like and watch an episode a night (as in only one episode), reading from the Big Book, reaching out to another alcoholic for support or to support them, or just watching YouTube videos.
I still love my down time and getting into bed early. Lately, I’ve been into watching “The Great British Bake Off” and old reruns of “Community”. I’m such a binge watcher now! I still like to watch Youtube videos and now I fall asleep watching “Parks n Rec”. I even have watched a few horror films.
9:15- Go to bed
This is when it’s really important to make sure I stop and thank God for giving me another sober day. I also try to be prepared for the morning as much as possible. Set my alarm! And I always fall asleep to an episode of “How I met you Mother,” playing on Netflix.
Yes, I still love to go to bed early. Its my favorite thing to do. I have a gratitude journal that I should write in more. And I try to do my 10th step nightly inventory, which is supper easy with the 10th step app. I am almost daily overwhelmed by the gratitude I have for my life now.
So, yes this schedule does seem rigid and structured. And yes, sometimes I feel like an f-ing robot and want to rip my hair out. But I also know that this first year in sobriety is building the foundation for the rest of my sobriety. Not drinking and using left a huge hole in my life. Cutting off all the old friends left a huge hole in my life. Not dating has left a huge hole in my life. And if I don’t find productive ways to fill my time, my addictive brain will creep in and try to take control again. My addiction might not even surface in the same ways it did before. My addiction may try to come out by isolating me, by working-out obsessively or by spending way too much money at the mall. Basically, by doing anything that feels good only in the moment and can have dire effects on me. This daily schedule shows that addiction is never cured, it is something that I have to battle daily and work towards achieving. The hope is that one day all of these activities will just become a part of my life and my personality, but until then I gotta fake it till I make it!
Kate A. (2017)
So, while I feel less like a robot recovery is still a huge part of my life. I usually attend at least 5 meetings a week, have all sober people in my life, live with a sober roommate, and try to practice the principles that AA has taught me in all my affairs.
Still Sober Cheers,
Kate A. (2018)
Dating in sobriety
This is a little Q & A I did with my friend.
1 - What was your first Valentine's Day like after recovery?
I had never been great in relationships before recovery. I was always that girl. I was honestly the worst. I was the type of girl that would show up at an ex’s house drunk at midnight on Valentine’s day crying, begging him to take me back. Just every bad cliche in the book. My first Valentine’s Day in recovery was way less dramatic, but still a little weird. I went to a young people in AA event called “Stupid Cupid”. There was a date auction that was pretty hilarious. Seeing people stand up there, sober!, and put themselves out there was crazy to me. The event also had a relationship panel where people shared their experience with dating other members of AA. Listening to the people talk, I thought about how nice it would be to date someone who shared the same values and principles of the program that I did.
There were quite a few things I had to do before I was ready to love someone else. Mainly, I needed to learn how to love myself which felt like a very daunting task. I really disliked myself when I first got sober to say the least. And the thought of “learning to love myself” seemed so cheesy I couldn’t take it seriously. Meditation was a huge part of me learning to forgive, appreciate and quite frankly stand being around myself. In a letter I wrote, I finally forgave myself for the horrible way I treated myself because even in my addiction I knew all I ever wanted was to love and to be loved. And so as cheesy as it was I started to love myself.
2 - Did you end any relationships after recovery or did your SO get into recovery too?
When I got into recovery I had to tell my coke dealer “boyfriend” it was over. I use the term boyfriend very loosely because we were not exclusive & he made sure to let me know he was sleeping with other women. But, I put up with it because in my addiction I had degraded myself to the point where I thought that kind of behavior was acceptable. My first sponsor told me not to be an “AA slut” and that if I dated anyone in the first year of sobriety that she would fire me. This was very difficult for me, because a lot of my addiction centered around an addiction to love also. I had so desperately sought out someone to save me from my alcoholic self. For the first time in my life, I tried really hard to be single. Like really single. Not swiping on TInder single. Like the kind of single where I actively said no to dating. Which is not easy when I’m at a conference or an event with tons of sober men every weekend. To say that men in AA are persistent is an understatement.
During this period of time, I did develop a friendship with Wyatt. We called each other every night for months and told each other our gratitude lists. I can’t tell you what an amazing way gratitude lists are to get to know someone. You really find out so much about the person and what they really value. Finally, when I was ready, Wyatt and I decided to take our relationship to the next level. I was so scared to cross that line because I loved having Wyatt in my life so much. I didn’t want to ruin what I had with him and I had always been so terrible at relationships. I was sure I would screw it up somehow. I’m happy to report that Wyatt and I are still together. While relationships are never perfect, I know he and I are great for each other. We are both dedicated to AA and our sobriety. We are willing to sincerely communicate in ways I never thought possible. I didn’t think I was capable of the love I now share with him. My experiences showed me how important it is for me to share my life with someone who can so fully understand every aspect of my past and present. I’m excited to see what the future holds.
3 - What is your biggest challenge in the dating scene now that you're in recovery?
For me, there can be a lot of challenges from dating a fellow alcoholic.I was so used to being the wild, crazy, overly emotional one in the relationship. So, whenever my partner starts showing alcoholic tendencies I freak out a little. It’s like wait, I thought I was the only one allowed to have problems, emotions, or moods? I appreciate that we navigate these things with the program at the center of it all. And that I have an awesome sponsor who let’s me vent!
And of course, there is always the issue of relapse. My boyfriend and I have told each other that cheating or relapsing are deal breakers. And while I would love to be all high and mighty and say, “Of course I would dump his butt,!” I honestly don’t know if I would. I am so in love with him that I would find it very difficult to walk away from him. The problem with loving an alcoholic is they are always one drink away for destroying everything and that’s something I have to deal with. And vice versa. All i can do is trust that things happen for a reason and that other people are out of my control. I can only take it one day at a time.
4 - What advice would you give addicts or the newly recovered to help them have more meaningful relationship or Valentine's Day?
I would say no matter where you are in recovery you don’t need to be lonely on Valentine’s Day. If you can go to a meeting that is great. The worst thing you can do is stay home and wallow in self-pity. If you can do something to get out of your own head and help someone else that's even better. Whether that’s volunteering or helping your little sister with her homework. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that my life in recovery is no longer about me. It's about what I can do for the world around me. I spent to many years taking, taking, taking now it is my turn to do some giving.
Where to even start?
I’ll start with--- “Hi I’m Kate. I’m an alcoholic.” I have to start there. At this point, I am so conditioned to say that phrase that I have to catch myself so I don’t say it at work meetings! I was not always so comfortable saying that I’m an alcoholic. Oh don't get me wrong, I loved to joke about it with my friends at the bar. “Oh mmmm geee, I’m such an alcoholic! More shots please!” And so, so, so many mornings I would jokingly start with the declaration, “I am NEVER drinking again!” But all of those jokes were in a vain attempt to cover up what I really knew deep down in my soul. I had no control when I drank.
I wish I could accurately describe the feeling in my heart and belly when I would take that first drink. The closest thing I can think of is that first drink sparks flames that start burning and ripping through my insides. Then my body, in a panic, tells me the only way to stop this blaze is with another drink. It’s an urge that feels necessary for my actual survival. Does that make sense? If you’ve never experienced this insatiable urge to drink alcohol, these words may fall on deaf ears. But, if you have experienced this urge, you are probably nodding along in agreement with me right now.
I hate to say that I never had any fun. There were occasions where nothing traumatic happened and I woke up in my bed alone with my keys, wallet, and phone intact. But for me, drinking was like playing Russian Roulette. I never knew if that night of drinking would lead to me saying something shitty to a friend, throwing up in a bar, or getting a DUI. Or, who knows, maybe everything would be fine. I just never knew how I was going to end up after I had that first drink. And for me, the more my alcoholism progressed, the more bullets I seemed to be loading my gun. The occasional fun times I might have once had became a distant memory. Until I was eventually so sad, scared, lonely, hopeless, and filled with self-loathing that I didn’t want to live anymore.
I never ended up under a bridge drinking from a brown paper bag; this was my mental image of what an alcoholic looked like. But I reached that jumping off point where I was ready to quit my job, break my lease, and leave my family behind to move 1,000 miles away and live with my coke dealer “boyfriend”. And when it seemed like my whole world was crashing down on me because of these crazy alcoholic decisions, I thought to myself, “Who would actually give a fuck if I killed myself? Like who would actually care?” I knew the friend whose house I was at would’ve been dismayed to find my dead body and dealing with all the police would’ve been a bummer. Of course, I knew my mom would be devastated, but being the self-centered prick I was I couldn’t even begin to empathize with the thought of a mother losing her only daughter to drugs and alcohol. My last night out there I drank like I never drank before, did drugs like I had never done before and started popping pills like never before. I was just crying out for it to be over. Saying over and over I just want this to be over. When I said “this to be over” did I mean this night, this 2 week long bender I had been on or my life? I can’t tell you with clarity what I actually meant when I said, “I just want this to be over.” I just knew the pain of my life was unbearable. What I didn't realize that night was the “this” that I wanted to end, could end and not tragically. That night it wasn’t the ending of my physical life, but more so my way of life. The next morning I woke up defeated, deflated, completely just done. I literally could not do it anymore. If I thought I had one more drink left in me I would have taken it that morning, but I literally just could not go on like I was.
The person I knew was dead. All the lies I had woven into a “life” were done. I couldn't lie anymore. I had somehow in my haze seen the truth. It wasn’t in the mirror like it is for most people. My reality came from seeing my hands. I didn’t recognize those hands. Long nails for doing coke with, that shook and trembled from insane made up fears in my psychosis, and grey, tired skin with sickly veins poking through. Whose hands were these? Who’s life was I living? How could I possibly be anything different than the party girl persona I had always, always been. I didn’t know and I was so so so scared to find out. Through all that hurt and pain somehow I managed to ask for help.
I wish so badly I could go back and hug that sad little girl. I wish I could tell her how much better her life would be just one sober year later. Tell her that she would learn through sobriety how to be a person, how to be a part of society and how to deal with those demons that had lived inside her as long as she could remember. Let her know that there is not one single aspect of her life that hasn’t been improved from being sober. Everything sobriety has touched has turned to gold. And that most importantly her mom would say on Christmas day that she was proud of her daughter.
I don’t know why I was spared that night I wanted it all to be over, but I have always had this feeling that I woke up that day so that I could help others who have had to deal with being in the grips of addiction. In my life now, I try to help as many people as possible find recovery. This blog is just another avenue I hope to use to help others achieve sobriety. I dedicate this blog to all those sad, scared, little “girls” who were once like me and know nothing about how to get sober, stay sober, and what sobriety can do for your life. The goal is to share with you what has worked for me and what hasn’t. I’m not an expert. I’m just one person sharing her experience in hopes that no one else has to live in that world of pain any longer. This is my truth and why I believe my Higher Power woke me up that day so many months ago.
Read other posts: